desolate

adjective
des·​o·​late | \ ˈde-sə-lət, ˈde-zə-\

Definition of desolate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : devoid of inhabitants and visitors : deserted a desolate abandoned town
2 : joyless, disconsolate, and sorrowful through or as if through separation from a loved one a desolate widow
3a : showing the effects of abandonment and neglect : dilapidated a desolate old house
b : barren, lifeless a desolate landscape
c : devoid of warmth, comfort, or hope : gloomy desolate memories

desolate

verb
des·​o·​late | \ -ˌlāt \
desolated; desolating

Definition of desolate (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to make desolate:
a : to deprive of inhabitants The neighboring towns were desolated.
b : to lay waste desolating the city with bombs
c : forsake their desolated families back home
d : to make wretched

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from desolate

Adjective

desolately adverb
desolateness noun

Verb

desolater or desolator \ -​ˌlā-​tər \ noun
desolatingly \ -​ˌlā-​tiŋ-​lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for desolate

Adjective

alone, solitary, lonely, lonesome, lone, forlorn, desolate mean isolated from others. alone stresses the objective fact of being by oneself with slighter notion of emotional involvement than most of the remaining terms. everyone needs to be alone sometimes solitary may indicate isolation as a chosen course glorying in the calm of her solitary life but more often it suggests sadness and a sense of loss. left solitary by the death of his wife lonely adds to solitary a suggestion of longing for companionship. felt lonely and forsaken lonesome heightens the suggestion of sadness and poignancy. an only child often leads a lonesome life lone may replace lonely or lonesome but typically is as objective as alone. a lone robin pecking at the lawn forlorn stresses dejection, woe, and listlessness at separation from one held dear. a forlorn lost child desolate implies inconsolable grief at loss or bereavement. desolate after her brother's death

dismal, dreary, bleak, gloomy, cheerless, desolate mean devoid of cheer or comfort. dismal indicates extreme and utterly depressing gloominess. dismal weather dreary, often interchangeable with dismal, emphasizes discouragement resulting from sustained dullness or futility. a dreary job bleak suggests chill, dull, and barren characteristics that utterly dishearten. the bleak years of the depression gloomy often suggests lack of hope or promise. gloomy war news cheerless stresses absence of anything cheering. a drab and cheerless office desolate adds an element of utter remoteness or lack of human contact to any already disheartening aspect. a desolate outpost

What is the word origin of desolate?

Adjective

Something that is desolate is literally or figuratively "abandoned," so you probably won't be surprised to learn that "desolate" has its roots in the Latin verb desolare, meaning "to abandon." The Middle English word desolat comes from the past participle of "desolare," which in turn combines the prefix de- and the adjective solus, meaning "alone." "Desolate" is not at all alone in this family of words. Some other familiar descendants of "solus" include "solitary," "sole," "solo," "solitude," and "soliloquy."

Examples of desolate in a Sentence

Adjective

a desolate house abandoned many years ago destitute and desolate since her husband walked out on her

Verb

totally desolated the city with aerial bombs
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

An explosive wildfire raging for more than three weeks near the iconic Yosemite National Park has turned the scenic valley into a desolate landscape choked with smoke with air quality as bad as Beijing's. Travis Fedschun, Fox News, "Yosemite National Park closed by 'hazardous' air from explosive Ferguson fire in California," 5 Aug. 2018 The first orbital spaceport, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, lies amid an arid, desolate Asian steppe. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "As the SpaceX steamroller surges, European rocket industry vows to resist," 20 July 2018 New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument is a desolate place; sparse vegetation pokes up throughout its salt flats and white gypsum dunes. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Fossil Tracks May Record Ancient Humans Hunting Giant Sloths," 30 Apr. 2018 And cinematographer Magnus Nordenhof Jønck finds beauty in the most desolate places; even flashing police lights set against nightfall are inviting. Bill Goodykoontz, azcentral, "Charlie Plummer plays an everyday hero in unsparing 'Lean on Pete'," 12 Apr. 2018 Tampa’s downtown was once a desolate area at night. Arian Campo-flores, WSJ, "Former Hedge-Fund Titan and Bill Gates Are Betting Billions on Tampa," 4 Dec. 2018 The places where Thomas occasionally seems lost among other plotlines and conflicting agendas do reflect the character’s confusion in winding up in such a desolate place, with so many revelations that shake his worldview and threaten his life. Tasha Robinson, The Verge, "Netflix’s Apostle takes The Wicker Man to a radical new level," 12 Oct. 2018 Boys filing along white tents against a desolate desert backdrop. Jazmine Ulloa, latimes.com, "Painful scenes of child separations force a rare retreat from the White House," 20 June 2018 A few hours after Maduro left, the central bank’s main atrium — the only place where the certificates are being sold for now — was desolate, with only a handful of prospective buyers inquiring about the documentation required to make a purchase. Jorge Rueda, The Seattle Times, "Maduro buys gold to boost savings amid five-digit inflation," 3 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'desolate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of desolate

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for desolate

Adjective and Verb

Middle English desolat, from Latin desolatus, past participle of desolare to abandon, from de- + solus alone

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about desolate

Listen to Our Podcast about desolate

Statistics for desolate

Last Updated

17 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for desolate

The first known use of desolate was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for desolate

desolate

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of desolate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: lacking the people, plants, animals, etc., that make people feel welcome in a place

: very sad and lonely especially because someone you love has died or left

desolate

verb

English Language Learners Definition of desolate (Entry 2 of 2)

: to make (someone) feel very sad and lonely for a long time

: to damage (a place) in such a way that it is no longer suitable for people to live in

desolate

adjective
des·​o·​late | \ ˈde-sə-lət \

Kids Definition of desolate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : having no comfort or companionship : lonely
2 : left neglected or in ruins a desolate old house
3 : without signs of life : barren a dry, desolate land
4 : cheerless, gloomy She put aside desolate thoughts.

Other Words from desolate

desolately adverb

desolate

verb
des·​o·​late | \ ˈde-sə-ˌlāt \
desolated; desolating

Kids Definition of desolate (Entry 2 of 2)

: to ruin or leave without comfort or companionship

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on desolate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with desolate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for desolate

Spanish Central: Translation of desolate

Nglish: Translation of desolate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of desolate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on desolate

What made you want to look up desolate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

tremendous in size, volume, or degree

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!